I Know I shouldn’t talk to strangers so why won’t strangers shut up?

7 Nov

I learned a lot of valuable life lessons in elementary school. For example, I learned how to “duck and cover.”

This was a drill to make us ready in case the Russians dropped an atom bomb on Florida. You just crawl under your desk and put your hands over your head. Apparently this will protect you from the blast and subsequent radiation. Or so I was lead to believe at the tender age of 6.

Happily, I haven’t ever had to use that lesson. But I am ready if it ever happens.

Another lesson I was taught in elementary school was don’t talk to strangers. They even showed some movie where this strange man tries to lure children into his car. He’s waving candy in the air and salivating, as I recall.

Of course, it has been awhile since I saw this particular film.

The children in the movie refused to get in the car and ran away. Good for them.

I really took this lesson to heart. To this day (except for that brief period back in the late 70’s that I prefer not to talk about) I will not get in the car with a strange man.

Granted, the offers have pretty much dwindled down to nothing lately, but on the off chance it might happen today, I know what to do.

I won’t talk to strangers.

Not so The Boyfriend. Maybe he was out that day or he maybe he is just a rebel at heart but he will talk to anyone.

How annoying.

This particular Saturday found us at Ted’s Montana Grill. The restaurant is located in a new anti-mall called The Town Center.

It is not, by the way, in the center of town, so already they are lying, but we like the place anyway. I say it is an anti-mall because there are a boatload of stores there but nothing is enclosed.

It is like walking in a little village that was founded on the principle of unbridled consumerism.

Apparently this is the new trend—create little villages of shops and restaurants, throw up condos and hotels around the perimeter. Maybe no one will notice that when it rains or the temperature dips below 30 or above 95 they could be a lot more comfortable if only they were shopping at an enclosed mall. “No, that’s OK, this is more trendy!”

The weather was great on this particular Saturday and we elected to sit outside. At the table next to us were three girls ranging in age from 11 to 14. Sitting with them was a large man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Jesse Ventura. My first impression: “Weekend Dad.”

Jesse was pontificating in a tone I found condescending even though he wasn’t talking to me.

“That is why I am the Dad. My job isn’t to be your friend. My job is to provide guidance and discipline. Being your friend is her job and her job and her job,” he said pointing one by one at the other three girls at the table.

I am not one to make snap judgments about someone.

Actually, I am. Instantly, I hated this guy.

The waiter for Jesse’s table came out to take their orders and Jesse informed him that he was required to answer a quiz question posed to him by the girls.

The question was, “Where were you born?” The young man volunteered that he was born and raised in Jacksonville.

Jesse responded with, “I’m sorry.” Ouch.

The Boyfriend was born and raised in Jacksonville. I was born in Alabama but pretty much raised here. It is OK for us to make fun of Jacksonville but not someone else.

“Why don’t you have a hick accent?” Jesse asked.

Why don’t you drop dead? I wanted to interject. I bit my tongue. I could tell The Boyfriend was listening too. He looked annoyed. The waiter stammered out some answer, I’m not really sure what he said. How do you respond to a question like that?

“Really, I have nothing against Jacksonville except everyone here is so intolerant,” Jesse said.

He had a point. I was feeling a little intolerant right that moment myself.

After our waiter had taken our order we were sitting, enjoying the beautiful day, people watching and anticipating the arrival of our lunch when all of a sudden:


It was a bicycle horn.


The girls at Jesse’s table giggled. It seemed they were surreptitiously passing a bicycle horn amongst themselves under the table.

I looked at The Boyfriend. Not only will he talk to strangers he will also happily tell strangers about themselves—including all the sordid details, if he feels so compelled. Children honking a bicycle horn would certainly be the sort of thing that might get him going.

“I hope that stops soon,” The Boyfriend said quietly.

Apparently the point of the game was for the girls to pass the horn around under the table, HONK it and then Jesse would guess which one had it. They all seemed to find this great good fun.

The people on the other side of their table were not so amused. When their waiter came out they asked to be moved inside. They made a big enough deal about it so that Jesse and the girls knew what was going on.

“Hey, they’re just kids. Kids are supposed to have fun!” Jesse called after them. They were escorted back into the restaurant. Jesse said, “I don’t see any signs that say No Honking!”

His waiter came out. “Are there any rules about not honking?” Jesse asked him.
“Um, no. Honk all you want,” he replied. I guess he was hoping Jesse was a big tipper.

I don’t see a sign that says No Honking.” Jesse repeated. “I don’t see any signs that say No singing either so I just might sing. I don’t sing very well but I love to do it.”

I don’t see any signs that say “Don’t stab the guy at the next table with a fork” but I have the restraint not to indulge myself no matter how much I may want to.

The honking resumed. Thanks for encouraging them, Jesse!
Not content to repeat, “I don’t see any signs that say this is a No Honking Zone” to the general air, Jesse turned to us and asked, “You don’t mind if they honk, do you?”

There was a pause. I looked at The Boyfriend. Since I don’t like to talk to strangers it is generally his job to respond when we are addressed by a stranger in some collective fashion. At the same time, I know that if he is irritated enough, he might respond with something like, “Tell them to honk all they want as soon as you shove that f*ing horn up your fat Jesse Ventura-looking ass!”

There was no telling what he was going to say next. The words, “He’s gonna blow!” echoed somewhere in the back of my brain. I was ready for anything.

The Boyfriend opened his mouth to speak. I winced. “It’s OK. Within reason.”

“Within reason?” Really? This is a restaurant. Is there a “reason” for a bicycle horn to be on the premises? Sometimes I cringe over the things the BF will say to a stranger, but this time, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down.

“It’s OK, Within reason” That’s the best you can do?

From this moment forward, Jesse decided we had become great, good friends. In short order we found out that he was, indeed, a weekend Dad. He lives in Chicago and comes to Jacksonville every weekend to spend time with his daughter.

Jesse was one of those people who feels a need to make it more than obvious to you that he is a-okay with the whole gay thing. I mean, that’s swell and all, but it isn’t like we were sporting big “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It” buttons or anything like that. We were just two frumpy middle aged men trying to have lunch. We were making absolutely no effort to “represent.”

Jesse, however, felt a need to represent the gay-tolerant people by sharing with us how much he enjoys the Logo channel on cable. He then proceeded to talk about several gay indy films he had just loved. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we saw those same indy films (thank the Goddess for Netflix!) and, frankly, they were kind of lame.

Just because it’s gay doesn’t mean it’s good…
I couldn’t say that. Jesse was just feeling so “gay-friendly” chatting it up with us, it would have broken his bleeding heart.

I fear he may have even thought we were bonding.

Before I knew it, Jesse was sitting at our table, leaning in with his best, “it’s just us guys here” fashion. Talking about gay Indy films lead to him telling us a personal story about his step son. We will call him Sean.

It seems that Jesse always knew that Sean was gay, but the boy’s mom was in denial. I don’t have to tell you by now that Jesse was 100% supportive. Things came to a head one day when Jesse found some interesting sites listed in his Internet history. Now, Jesse is a tolerant, open-minded man, but apparently not so open minded that he himself actually visited gay porn sites on his computer. When he brought this to the attention of the boy’s mother, she was in total shock.

Not so, Jesse.

“Let me tell you what I did,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. I couldn’t imagine there was a way to stop him anyway.

Jesse ordered a very special cake for Sean, which he sequestered in the kitchen one evening before taking the family out to dinner. After dinner, he took the son aside and told him what his Internet browser history had revealed. He told the young man that this evening was in celebration of him.

Then he took the son into the kitchen and showed him the cake. It had “Happy Coming Out, Sean!” on it.

Written in rainbow icing.

I may have made up that last detail.

“It is up to you, Sean,” Jesse said in that annoyingly earnest voice of his. “We can take this out to the family and slice it, or you can keep it to yourself. Whatever you want to do, son….”

Sometimes life is like an independent film you’d see on the Logo channel and, apparently, this was one of those times.

In true gay Indy-film fashion, young Sean took up his cake and delivered it to the family. As he sliced the cake into perfect squares (but of course), Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” began to play on the soundtrack…

Or maybe that was just Jesse, queuing up the CD player…

It was a beautiful story, but I realize now it would have been really funny if, at that moment, I had turned to Jesse and said, “Why are you telling us this? We’re not gay!”

But I didn’t.

Still, I was glad when Jesse decided to migrate back to his own table with his young daughter and her friends.

They ate lunch in their designated personal space, just as we ate lunch in ours.

Soon, they paid the check and got up to leave. Jesse smiled and waved goodbye.

Wait. Did he actually wink at us?

As they walked away, I thought, God bless the tolerant people. Just don’t let them interrupt my lunch.

I knew there was a good reason to never talk to strangers.

If only they wouldn’t talk to me…

4 Responses to “I Know I shouldn’t talk to strangers so why won’t strangers shut up?”

  1. Jaime December 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    I'm so happy you're blogging of Myspace now. Like ecstatic happy.

  2. Fred E Lehman December 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm #

    I see you save the good stuff for blogger. Hmmmm.LOL

  3. Tsquared December 10, 2009 at 7:29 am #

    Spit coffee out my nose a couple times. Great write.

  4. DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom December 16, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    Do people really think that telling you that they like the logo channel in conspiritorial tones is going to endear them to you? At least if he got in your face and yelled how he loves a Logo Smackdown while pointing and gesturing wildly and grabbing (the imaginary) microphone, he would have come off as more genuine.

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